“One of the fine arts of
gracious living is the art of living freely with our critics. When we have the
grace to be free in the presence of those who judge our lives and evaluate our
actions, we have freedom.”
What if we decided that criticism would no longer would
rock our boat? That our
life’s balance and sense of well-being wasn’t resting on acceptance from
situations where someone expresses disapproval of you, and instead of being
bent toward gaining their approval, you instead felt genuine love toward them.
Imagine being freed from the unhealthy need to astound and impress those around
you. Imagine your sense of self was no longer leaning on the unstable
foundation of whether somebody notices how attractive, smart, or successful you
are. Imagine with me for a moment. It IS possible.
Let’s be honest.
We all know what that drug tastes like. To strive for others’ approval and how
it feels when it gets withheld.
This problem is
almost like a mental jury box composed of all the people who rate us like so
many judges, calculating our every move and assessing us. That jury box can
certainly get overcrowded. Parents are in that box. I imagine some school
teachers are there, too, and some important members of our peer group, and
don’t forget our boss, co-workers, family members, and neighbors.
identity is wrapped up in whether we are perceived as successful, we are set up
to be trapped by the approval monster. Our sense of self is on the line.
“Who am I?”
Henri Nouwen asks. “I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked,
hated, or despised. Whether I am a pianist, a businessman, or a minister, what
matters is how I am perceived by my world. If being busy is important to
others, then I must be busy. If having money is a sign of real freedom, then I
must claim my money. If knowing many people proves my importance, I will have
to make the necessary contacts.”
monster-like figure takes form when you find
yourself OFTEN getting hurt by what others say about you…and the noise
Maybe you find
yourself habitually comparing
yourself to other people…and the noise continues…
Maybe you have a nagging sense that you aren’t important enough
or special enough…
Maybe the ugly monster is you trying to impress important people….
noise gets so loud and the monster so overpowering that you just want it to
important reality. If you don’t remember anything else, remember this…YOU are
not the passive victim of others’ sentiments, thoughts, and feelings about you.
Their views are feeble and powerless until you endorse them. Their opinions
have no weight until you validate them. No one’s approval will impact your life
unless you allow it importance and
Pulling yourself out of approval addiction
Brené Brown has
an incredible exercise and visual reminder for pulling yourself out of the
approval addiction spiral.
out a 1-inch square of paper.Write
down the names of the people whose opinions matter the most to you. Remember, you can only
write as many fit on that piece of paper.Refer
to it whenever you start to feel yourself spiraling.
this exercise will not only help you reset your thinking, but it will also be
equally inspiring. How many times have you been in the middle of working on a
big project only to see that someone else is doing something similar? Or
how often do you stop dead in your tracks, giving up before you’ve really
even started, because of a critical comment someone made about your process?
This exercise is
intended to remind us of the people who actually matter in our life. When you
feel the need to seek approval, seek it from them, from the people who love you
enough to be tough when necessary, but not for sport.
The delusion and entrapment of more
I think one of
the most challenging places that approval monster likes to fester and rear its
ugly head is the entrapment of MORE.
Don’t we all get
entangled with the enemy of “more”…more money, more clothes, more shoes, more
stuff…more kids (okay, maybe not more kids, J although we have four boys). I digress.
We believe that
MORE will get us approval from others or help us approve of ourselves. But is MORE ever enough?
ourselves for more – more stuff, more achievements, more experiences, more
successes, and more choices. We’re showered, every day, by thousands of
messages that convey that more, eventually, will lead to contentment.
The truth is
there is something called learned
contentment. Contentment is a learned behavior, and it depends on the
perspective you bring to life. It’s not
something you find; it’s an attitude you bring to life.
There is a
Peanuts cartoon where Snoopy was sitting on top of his doghouse on
Thanksgiving. He’s bitter because Charlie Brown and the family are having this
huge feast inside their house, and Snoopy is stuck on his doghouse with only
dog food. He’s grumbling about this until a thought occurs to him and he says
to himself, “I guess it could be worse. I
could have been born a turkey.”
Prayer and solitude
times for prayer and solitude helps us to see what is important in life. It
helps us peel away the noise of distraction and the vices of our culture. Among
other things, it allows us to remember what’s important in our life.
been choked by this constant need for others’ approval. Rather than
experiencing a sense of calm, peace and joy, you find yourself:
Feeling angry and yelling at
children too often.Feeling envious of people more
successful or attractive than you.Passing judgment on people.Worrying too much about your money
and job.Spinning the truth in order to gain
practices over the centuries have shown the powerful benefits of carving out
time for silence, prayer, meditation, and solitude. In fact, prayer and
solitude can become the furnace of transformation, burning off the need for
self-importance, validation from others’ opinions, self-centeredness, and so
prayer and solitude so important? It’s one place where we can discover freedom
from the forces of an external world that can sometimes ruthlessly mold us.
In his book, Tools of
Titans, Tim Ferriss sat down with more than 200 executives, leaders, and
other people at the heights of their fields, where he found that 80% had some
form of guided meditation, prayer, or mindfulness practice. (A great tool to
start mediation is the app headspace, found at www.headspace.com).
solitude, as the heart of the matter, it is primarily about NOT doing
something. Just as the spiritual
practice of fasting means to abstain from eating, so solitude means to abstain
from society. When we go into solitude, we remove ourselves from others, from
conversation, from noise, from the constant onslaught of activities.
“In solitude,” Henri Nouwen wrote, “I get
rid of my scaffolding.”
all the immaterial items we use to prop ourselves up, to assure ourselves that
we are so significant or acceptable. In solitude and quiet, neither
achievements nor résumés nor assets nor networks define us.
One of the biggest
distractions in our culture is TV. Maybe just for a week you decide to
limit the amounts of TV you watch…just to set aside moments of meditation and
Maybe you decide
to cut TV COLD TURKEY! Maybe you say, “all right.”
For one week, I
am not going to watch a single thing on TV, except whenever the Dallas Cowboys
play. Other than that, it’s not going to happen.
I can’t remember
the last time that I talked to someone who said, “Last night I spent the whole
night watching TV, and today I’m filled with so much love and peace and joy.”
When I find
myself comparing myself to others (remember, “comparison is the thief of joy”)
or thinking, “I could be happy if I had their stuff, their job, or their
life”…I then realize that I need to step away and listen for another voice that
isn’t thirsting for human recognition.
Maybe the voice
says something like, “Do not look down on your place, your gifts, or your